In this paper we demonstrate that gradient echo MRI with hyperpolarized 3He gas can be used for simultaneously extracting in vivo information about lung ventilation properties, alveolar geometrical parameters, and blood vessel network structure. This new approach is based on multi-gradient-echo experimental measurements of hyperpolarized 3He gas MRI signal from human lungs and a proposed theoretical model of this signal. Based on computer simulations of 3He atoms diffusing in the acinar airway tree in the presence of an inhomogeneous magnetic field induced by the susceptibility differences between lung tissue (alveolar septa, blood vessels) and lung airspaces, we derive analytical expressions relating the time-dependent MR signal to the geometrical parameters of acinar airways and the blood vessel network. Data obtained on eight healthy volunteers are in good agreement with literature values. This information is complementary to the information obtained by means of the in vivo lung morphometry technique with hyperpolarized 3He diffusion MRI previously developed by our group, and opens new opportunities to study lung microstructure in health and disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1451-1460
Number of pages10
JournalNMR in biomedicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Hyperpolarized gas
  • Lung morphometry
  • Magnetic susceptibility
  • Relaxation


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